Monday, 31 March 2014

Look At Me! - The Need for Attention

     Humans crave attention, whether we care to admit it or not. For some people, this manifests as the desire for fame and fortune, while for others it can be as simple as feeling as though someone is proud of you. But it’s there in all of us, that little selfish streak that wants people to notice you.

     Many people are introverts, who don’t like to be the centre of attention. But this does not mean they don’t desire some form of recognition, perhaps just a simple remark of a job well done. In some ways, it is not so much about attention, but more about reassurance. Reassurance that we have achieved something worthwhile, that we are doing something productive with our lives. Psychologically, this reassurance boosts our self-esteem, making us happier and more confident, and therefore able to continue doing whatever it is we are good at.

     Celebrity culture takes attention to extreme lengths. Many would argue that the work of people like doctors deserves more recognition than that of singers or actors, but we can all name far more people with careers in the latter areas. Unfortunately, our society has developed this unhealthy obsession with the lives of these people, which is very difficult to remedy. But, they are still worth some of our attention. Many celebrities are people who have worked hard at something they’re good at, to the point of earning recognition from thousands of others, particularly when what they do provides us with a form of entertainment and bring us pleasure. The important thing is that they are dedicated to their craft, and not just in it for the fame. This is certainly not true of all celebrities sadly, but hopefully is for some.

    This semi-selfish need for attention can extend into many aspects of our lives. It is a good thing in some ways, driving us to make our lives better and to find happiness. But even our seemingly selfless acts often have some hidden reward that benefits us. We all feel proud and good about ourselves when helping others, so does our own need to feel this way somehow corrupt the act? Or does it matter, as long as the person still receives the aid they need? Human motivations are complex and far-reaching, and often we may not want to admit our true reasons behind our actions.

     Attention is a difficult thing to measure and control. It’s all too easy to give someone recognition when they have done something that is of obvious merit or importance. But we should also learn to appreciate smaller acts, which are perhaps not ground-breaking or incredible, but still important nevertheless. Even just remembering to thank someone for a small act of kindness can make them feel good. With children especially, we should encourage them in whatever they enjoy or good at, to aid self-esteem, but not so much that they develop overly large egos. Competition can be a healthy motivator, especially for people like athletes, but should not be taken so seriously that they eclipse the other aspects of your life.

     For some, being the best is what’s important.  For others, just acknowledgement of a job well done is enough. Everyone is different and has different needs and desires. But ultimately, I think we can all agree, that it’s nice to be noticed every now and again.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Review - The Pretty Reckless: Going to Hell


     Going To Hell, the second album from The Pretty Reckless, is largely what you’d expect from them. A record infused with rebellion, seduction and attitude. It’s an album full of big sounds, with the powerful vocals are accompanied by lots of soaring, heavy riffs. It has the feel of an album influenced by classic rock and metal music. Lyrically, things can get a little dark, and possible controversial to some people (particularly the religious references, such as ‘Going to Hell’), but much of it can also be read as empowering and confident. There’s a sense of reckless abandon and embracing sin, and being entirely unapologetic about doing so. This is perhaps best summed up in the track ‘Fucked Up World’, which feels very reminiscent of the classic motto of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”. Other tracks are everything from raunchy to creepy to corrupt, keeping things complementary but still somewhat varied. At times, things can feel overly theatrical, especially with the additional sounds (moans in ‘Follow Me Down’, gunfire in ‘Why’d You Bring A Shotgun to the Party?’) which feel a bit gimmicky and unnecessary. However, this theatricality is counterbalanced by the rawness and vulnerability of other tracks, such as ‘Burn’ and ‘Waiting for a Friend’ which are entirely stripped back, both musically and emotionally, and provides a bit more depth and honesty to the record. Overall, while it may not feel any more mature than their first record, this album is a dark chaotic ride, with a confidence and energy that should appeal to many.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Paris Haul

    So, while I was in Paris over the weekend, I decided to do a bit of shopping. I've never done a haul post before, as it's rare that I buy this much in one go, but I haven't been shopping for a long time now, and this might be my only chance to do it in Paris this year. It also seemed like a good time to replenish my spring/summer wardrobe. The irony of this though, is that although I was shopping in Paris, most of what I bought is from international brand names!

     First, I picked this dress up in H&M. I wanted to get a few more summer dresses, as they're so easy to throw on, and this is very comfy and flowing. I'm quite a big fan of stripes and I think with this being black and white, I could layer up and wear it into the colder months as well.

Monday, 24 March 2014

You Me At Six - European Youth Tour

     You Me At Six are, without a doubt, one of my favourite bands out there at the moment. I’ve seen them twice before, back in the U.K., but it’s been two years since the last time, so I was quick to get hold of tickets for their European Youth tour.

     The show was in Paris, a venue called Le Trabendo. It’s a pretty small room, with a capacity of around 700 (and sold out that night), which is far smaller than the previous You Me At Six shows I’ve been to. I was glad of this though, as small, intimate gigs are easily my favourites, no fuss or complexity, and more focus on the music itself. It also allowed me to get far closer to the stage than usual, so I was only a few people from the front, and as the stage wasn’t raised much, you felt incredibly close to the band.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Review - Natives: Indoor War

     The debut album from Natives has been long waited for and highly anticipated for many fans – and the wait has been worthwhile. Previously called Not Advised, the band changed their name prior to releasing any song from their full-length debut, and the name change now makes perfect sense. ‘Natives’ is far better suited to a band clearly in touch with their musical roots, and who have produced something organic and unique.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Outfit of the Day - Music & Merchandise

    Another gig outfit this week! Again comfort is most important to me for gigs, and as I'm going to see You Me At Six, one of their merch t-shirts seemed like the best choice. Shorts & patterned tights make a change from jeans, without being too fancy, and embrace the oncoming spring and better weather we've had lately. And once again, comfy Converse and armfuls of wristbands are a must!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Review - Not Another Happy Ending

Warning: minor spoilers ahead

     I had mixed feelings about Not Another Happy Ending. Before watching I was unsure whether it would be a typical romantic comedy, or something a little more indie and different; it turned out to be the former. Being about literature, set in Scotland and having Karen Gillan were good selling points for me, and it was decent, but nothing particularly outstanding.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Fall Out Boy - Live in Paris

     Fall Out Boy is a band that have been around for most of my teenage years, and therefore there’s almost a sense of nostalgia attached to them. I was never a huge fan when I was younger, but I’ve come to like them more and more over time though, especially since their reunion, so there was no way I was turning down a chance to see them live.

      This was my first gig in France, so I was interested to see what the crowd would be like for starters, and they were pretty decent. I certainly missed the Scottish chants of “Here we fucking go!” and the crowd was considerably less rowdy – poor attempts at a pit, and limited jumping around – but there was plenty of cheering and arm waving to keep the atmosphere fun. I’m also generally a fan of smaller, intimate venues, but Le Zenith is an arena. However, it is on the smaller side, with a 6,000 person capacity, and I managed to get pretty far forward in the standing area, so I didn’t mind too much.

     First up was support act, The Pretty Reckless. I know a bit of their music, and have always thought they were pretty good, but I’ve never gotten that into them. I’ve also had some reservations about Taylor Momsen in the past, as she always seemed a bit aloof to me. However, after their set, my doubts vanished. They did exactly what a support act should, getting the crowd amped up before the main act, with plenty of catchy, energetic songs. They showed off tracks from their upcoming album, but made sure to include plenty of songs that the crowd knew and could sing along with. And Momsen was confident and sexy and totally owned the stage. Any hints of cockiness that I had previously thought her to have were gone, as her confidence was entirely justified. And most importantly, they sounded excellent live.

     Then came the main act. Fall Out Boy kicked off with ‘The Phoenix’, clad in balaclavas and inciting a chaotic, energetic, almost riotous atmosphere into the room. The set was a great mix of new tracks off their most recent record, and old favourites, the songs that I know will always remind me of my youth – there’s something nostalgic and almost quite surreal for me about hearing songs like ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’ and ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’ live and in person. The set sounded great as well – for me, there’s nothing more disappointing than an artist who doesn’t sound good live, and luckily Fall Out Boy did not disappoint. Given that I wasn’t a huge fan in my younger days, I don’t know their entire back catalogue and there were a few song I didn’t recognise, but I still enjoyed them. Although, I would've preferred a different song to end the gig on, as I didn't recognise the one they choose, so I couldn't get really into it as I did with other tracks.

     Also, I go to gigs to hear the music live, and I’m not all that interested in elaborate staging and special effects, as I feel too much of it detracts from the main focus: the music. Fall Out Boy struck a great mix though. Given that it was an arena, they needed to have something interesting going on, but fortunately, there was nothing overpowering. Besides the balaclava-clad opening, they had various ramps on stage to run up and down, giant balloons floating through the crowd during ‘Young Volcanoes’ and at one point they all vanished for a few moments only to reappear on a platform at the back of the standing area to perform a few acoustic tracks. This all made things fun and kept it interesting, so I enjoyed it all.

     One of the only disappointments for me was the lack of banter between tracks. Obviously the main focus is the music, but I do enjoy it when bands crack a few jokes between themselves or interact with the crowd, as it just makes the gig feel a little more personal. Fall Out Boy had a few moments of this – one of my favourites being Patrick Stump trading his usual hat for a beret someone from the crowd gave him – but it was largely restricted to Pete Wentz saying a few words now and then to introduce some songs. I was very happy though when he held off starting the next song while a girl who was unwell was lifted to safety from the crowd – it always means a lot when bands look out for their fans like this. However, overall, the lack of banter did not detract from what was otherwise, an excellent show.

     It was a fantastic night, which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The venue and crowd were better than I had expected and both bands sounded great live. Many of my favourite bands cite Fall Out Boy as one of their influences, and they’ve certainly been a driving force within the pop-punk playing field, so I’m beyond thrilled that I got to see them live. An amazing concert.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Outfit of the Day - Concert Comfort

    So, this was my outfit of choice for a concert today. I've never understood why some people dress up fancy for them, because no one is looking at you! Comfort is always key, and you can't go wrong with skinny jeans & Converse - I especially love the patterned double lining of this pair. The top is light and loose, as concerts get very warm, but I always take a shoulder bag with a cardigan for before and after, and of course the bag itself is easy to keep hold of in a crowd. And of course, I can never go to a gig without armfuls of wristbands!

Top - LaRedoute, Jeans - Next, Converse - Schuh, Earrings - Claire's, 
Wristbands - Twin Atlantic, Young Guns, Deaf Havana, You Me At Six & Natives merch stores, Bag - Gift, Nail Polish - 'Risky Red' by Seventeen

Monday, 10 March 2014

Adventures in Austria

     I went to Austria! If you hadn’t already guessed from the title of this post. I had a week off from classes, so I went to visit Bridget, who is on her year abroad in Linz, for a few days. Obviously I haven’t seen her in ages, but I’ve also never been to Austria before, so it was all very exciting. Also, I’m studying in France and therefore, funnily enough, I speak French. Not a word of German. So, of course, Bridget spent the whole weekend translating menus, ordering my food and any other similar situation that came up. It did also make me feel slightly better about how much French I understand though, as it’s far more than I can in German.

     My trip started horrendously early at 5.30 am because I took the train from Tours, where I’m currently living to Linz, via Paris and Frankfurt. It was a 13 hour journey in total, although actually didn’t feel as long as that. It’s quite a nice way to travel if you want to see the country, and even before getting to Linz, Austria looked like a really pretty country. It made a nice change from France too. We didn’t do much when I arrived, other than get food, because as you can expect I was tired and hungry and it was late.

     ANYWAY, the next day Bridget had to work in the morning – she’s a teaching assistant over there – while I slept. Then we took the train to Gmunden (and yes, I had to Google the spellings of all the place names in order to write this) which I’m told has some lovely mountain views, but sadly we choose a really foggy day to go and I didn’t get to see these. It’s a very pretty little place though, and I tried schnitzel for the first time, which I’ll admit is not the most exciting food, but it tasted good! Then, for that evening, Bridget had tickets to a FREE wine tasting. When we got there, there were basically lots of older people going around sampling wines from loads of stalls. It all seemed very sophisticated and classy, however, when the words “alcohol” and “free” come together in the same place, there’s only going to be one outcome for me. So yes, I got very drunk.

Linz main square & Trinity column
    We stayed in Linz the next day, so I could see a bit more of the town, starting with the most amazing burgers ever. There’s no other story to them, I just wanted to mention how amazing they were. First we took the tram up this hill called the Postlingberg, and got some nice views over the city and had a look at the little church up there. Then we went for a wander around Linz, and saw things like the main square, the old town and the cathedral. Bridget kept referring to them in their German names, but I’m not even going to pretend like I can remember what she said. She also showed off some serious tour guide skills, and told me lots of facts and history about everything, which I found very impressive given that I know practically nothing about Tours. Her school was going to see a play that afternoon, which was in English, so I went along to that too. It was about “The Wave” experiment, which I knew nothing about before, so that was really interesting, although the play itself was a bit corny at times.

View of Linz from Postlingberg
Church on Postlingberg

Linz cathedral
   That night I met a whole bunch of Bridget’s friends, mostly other language assistants, and we went out for drinks. A lot of drinks. I didn’t meet all of them properly as there was really quite a big group there, but those I did seemed really nice. Everyone else went home earlier than us though, so Bridget & I were the last two standing, until 4am. Highlight of the evening was definitely the guy who opted to change his shirt behind the bar, right in front of us! I was told that there aren’t usually that many attractive guys going around in Austria, but they all magically emerged when I turned up for the weekend! I certainly wasn’t complaining, as France is definitely lacking in them. Unfortunately, we did get one creep trying to chat to us, but then one of Bridget’s students turned up and somehow got him to leave, and so will forever be a lad for doing so. I’m also not a fan of the fact that you can smoke indoors in Austria, so everywhere was very smoky, and all my clothes were stinking of it afterwards.

     The next day we headed over to Salzburg, which was very pretty. We went to the gardens where they filmed stuff for The Sound of Music, and saw the house where Mozart was born (proof that I was listening to everything Bridget told me!). We went to the cathedral too, which was amazing, and I also found it really interesting how different Austrian cathedrals are to French ones, although I don’t have the architectural knowledge to explain how. It was a lovely day too, so we got ice cream and sat by the river for a while, where we also discovered that “yahs” exist in Austria too, much to our amusement. That night, we went to Wels for this big party thing (no one was quite sure what to call it, but it felt like a night out in a club) with some of Bridget’s friends. And yes, more alcohol may have been consumed. It was a lot of fun, as I haven’t been out dancing in such a long time.

Inside Salzburg cathedral
Mozart's birthplace
     And then the next morning I had to get up to catch my flight back from Vienna! It was such a fun few days and I really enjoyed all of it. I got a great mix of everything, the sight-seeing and the partying, and of course hanging out with Bridget. And now do I really have to go back to French classes this week?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Creativity & Criticism

     Creativity is ultimately personal. When being creative, you are making something unique and new. You may have taken inspiration from other sources, but the end product is uniquely your own. However, this end product is subjective. Be it a song, a painting, a poem, an outfit or even just an idea, there is no guarantee that people will like it. Everyone’s opinion is different, and what appeals to one may not to another.

     People are perfectly entitled to have these opinions. No one should be coerced into pretending to like or dislike something, when that’s not true. There’s also a very difficult, but important distinction to make between what creations people like, and what is good. Sometimes you have to admit to the talent behind a work, even if you don’t like it overall.

     What we should remember though, is that behind every artwork or creation there is a person. A human being, like you or I, with real emotions. Creativity is a personal matter, and to put your own creation, in whatever medium, out into the world for others to see takes a certain degree of courage. It is placing oneself in a vulnerable position, choosing to open themselves up to the world in this way – some going deeper in their personal expression than others of course. People have to expect criticism of their creations though, both good and bad. But what both critic and artist should remember is to keep criticism impersonal. This sounds contradictory, given the personal nature of creativity. However, criticism should be constructive, not merely slanderous, and restrict itself to that particular piece of work, not making reference to the person behind it. We can discuss the ways in which the artist’s life and attitude may have influenced the work – as long as we refrain from making negative remarks about said person and their life. However, that person should also remember not take criticism of their work too personally and allow it to dishearten them.

     I think it’s important to remember the bravery it takes to share your creations, as nowadays it’s all too easy to use the internet to post unnecessarily cruel comments, forgetting that there’s a person reading them at the other end.  The internet gives us anonymity, which is a powerful thing and should not be misused. It’s perfectly alright to dislike someone’s work, as long as you do so respectfully.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Outfit of the Day - Woollen Warmth

     So, as it's getting closer to spring time and warmer weather, I'm trying to get as much use out of my winter clothes while I still can. And this jumper is the cosiest thing ever. It's very loose fitting, so the design is all about comfort, meaning it doesn't need much in the way of accessories. I could easily wear this with Converse and no jewellery, but here I've dressed it up a little, but still kept things minimal, with the heeled boots and a few rings. Also, the hole in the back of the jumper keeps things interesting (although, as my brother pointed out, has no purpose at all), and I like to play around with different coloured tops underneath, or here I'm wearing a cami top so my skin appears instead.

Jumper - New Look, Jeans - Next, Boots - New Look, 
Purple ring - Gift, Silver rings - Etam, Earrings - Gift

Monday, 3 March 2014

Personality Profiles

     I’ve always liked doing personality tests every now and then, as a bit of fun, but I’m never really sure about how accurate they are. Some claim to be very thorough and exact; others are just silly quizzes to tell you which TV character you’re most like. I’m usually pretty sceptical about a test’s ability to accurately explain my personality – especially to reduce it to one of only a few categories - but these more in-depth ones are surprisingly accurate, I think. I found it pretty interesting, so I’m sharing some of my results, both serious and light-hearted ones.

     First up, here are some of the more serious, in-depth tests:

-          Jung/Briggs Meyer test – INFJ: Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging
Summary - INFJs are complex in character. They are idealists, but also “doers”, and this rare combination often leads them to taking disproportionate amount of responsibility. They are concerned about relationships, with individuals and the larger state of humanity. INFJs can only be emotionally intimate with a chosen few long-term friends and family. They will court the demands made on them by others, but at times will suddenly withdraw to themselves.  They may have the clearest insight into others’ motivations, for good and evil, but this empathy can cause discomfort in stressful situations. Inner conflicts are common and they can find it difficult to articulate deep feelings. Self-expression comes easiest in writing, and academically they tend to gravitate towards liberal arts. INFJs have deep convictions about weightier matters of life, and those who are activist are there for the cause, not glory or power. They are champions of the oppressed and ‘poetic justice’ appeals to them. INFJs are suspicious about others motives, and not easily fooled. They have a knack for languages and communication, and there nonverbal sensitivity allows them to know other intimately. Writing, counselling, public service and even politics are common career areas.

-          Four Temperaments Test – Melancholic
Summary – Melancholic temperaments are fundamentally introverted and thoughtful, but are often perceived as getting unnecessarily worried about things. They can be highly creative, and often become preoccupied with tragedy in the world. They are often perfectionists, self-reliant and independent, but can get so involved in activities that they forget to think of others.

-          Enneagram Test – Type 6, The Loyalist
Summary - The committed, security-oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent "troubleshooters," they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion.

And here are some more light-hearted ones, mostly silly character comparison. For the Sorting Quiz, I think Pottermore’s is the most reliable, as the answer options aren’t obviously geared to each house, so you can’t force yourself into your preferred option. The others are all from Zimbio, for similar reasons of being less obvious in their answers. They have loads of these, but I only did the ones of shows etc. that I watch, or am at least vaguely familiar with.

-          Hogwarts House – Gryffindor
-          Harry Potter – Luna Lovegood
-          Disney  princess – Belle
-          Disney villain – Evil Queen (from Snow White)
-          Disney sidekick – Sebastian
-          Disney prince (best suited for) - Aladdin
-          Toy Story - Jessie
-          Game of Thrones – Tyrion Lannister
-          Pretty Little Liars – Aria
-          Star Wars – Padmé Amidala
-          Tolkien magical creature – Elf
-          The Hunger Games – Katniss
-          Once Upon A Time – Snow White
-          Glee – Rachel
-          The Big Bang Theory – Sheldon
-          How I Met Your Mother - Lily
-          X-Men – Jean Grey
-          The Avengers – Hulk
-          Downton Abbey – Lady Edith
-          New Girl – Cece
-          Clueless – Tai
-          Mean Girls – Cady
-          The Muppets – Kermit
-          Revenge - Jack
-          Arrow – Felicity
-          Johnny Depp character – Willy Wonka

     So, what do you think all of this says about me? What would you expect me to be like? Do you think personality tests are accurate? What do they say about you?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Taking Risks

     How good are you at taking risks? Do you drop everything to change plans at a moment’s notice? There are some people who can handle change very easily, taking sudden developments in their stride.  Some people exact these changes on themselves, by taking risks or doing something dramatic. People who will quit their job, with no back-up alternative, or who set off travelling with no plans or arrangement whatsoever. I think the main reason for doing this is to make yourself happy. These are people who don’t want to waste their time doing something they don’t love, and feel like they are missing out on something better, so they are willing to take a risk to make this happen.

     But not everyone is like this. If you’re like me, you like plans and security. I’m not adverse to change by any means, I just need a little time to prepare and adapt to it. Spontaneity is great sometimes, when it’s last minutes plans for a day trip or something of the sort, but anything too dramatic starts to stress me out. Sticking with my earlier examples, I’d only quit a job once I had something better lined up next, and I want to travel a lot, but I need to have a plan before going. I think it’s good to take risk, but I feel far better about it when I have some sort of safety net in case things go wrong. I’m definitely a worrier, but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t stop you from being happy.

Photos du Monde (PhotosDuMonde) sur Twitter
Could you do this? (Source)
     Everyone has a different meaning as to what is comfortable for them, and it’s up to you how far you want to stretch beyond your own comfort zone. I do think it’s important to get out of it now and then though, otherwise you could miss out on some great experiences. Take small steps though, if you need to – perhaps if you’re shy, start by hanging out with a just one or two people, rather than diving straight into a huge party. Finding the right balance for yourself is what’s most important though. For example, I’m currently living abroad which is utterly terrifying, although has gotten easier with time. On the one hand, I want to go out and see more of the country, so I’ve been making the effort to go on various trips, but I always have them planned out in advance. And then, although it may be a poky little place in student halls, my flat is sort of like a sanctuary for me, so I can relax when things get a bit too much and I need to retreat for a while.

     Life is short, so make the most of opportunities when you can, and try new things. But it’s also ok to feel nervous or worried sometimes, to back out of the more extreme changes that others may embrace. As long as you feel comfortable and happy in your choices, that’s all that matters.

     So, are you a risk taker, or do you like having a safety net just in case?
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